Tuesday, May 23, 2017

An IAF Officer's passion for agriculture ..

S. Parameshwaran was my  classmate at the College of Engineering, Trivandrum during Mechanical Engineering under-graduation days. He also hails from near my hometown of Chennithala, in Alleppey district of Kerala, a small state in the southern tip of India, from a place called Mannar. 

Parameshwaran, fit as a fiddle, went on to join the Indian Air Force after engineering and retired from IAF as a Wing commander way back in early 2010 after 26 years of meritorious service. After seeing his only daughter getting married off and going with her husband and a short stint in Bangalore, resettling back in Mannaar was very boring for Parameshwaran and his wife. But he hit upon this brilliant idea of going back to nature and taking up agriculture.

In his 2 acre land in Mannaar he started cultivating vegetables as a hobby initially around 2015. Even though the first year was a great loss, he did not give up. Continuing from the second year he has been able to break it even. Even though he gets a good pension from the IAF, the simple pleasure of being able to reduce the carbon footprint and giving back to the society and nature through a green way of living, causing very less destruction to the surroundings and the habitat, has given much more satisfaction to Parameshwaran than the earnings he makes from agriculture.

Parameshwaran leads a very systematic disciplined life, getting up daily at 4.30 AM and working in his field till 7.30 AM. After breakfast and rest, he is back in action this time taking and selling the farm produce in the local farm department store in Chennithala. The high quality education and experience Parameshwaran has gathered over two and a half decades in the Indian Air Force has got him looking at improving the productivity of the farming operation with reduced inputs, maximizing the outputs with practically nil application of chemical fertilizers.

Interacting and taking help from agricultural experts Paramu has been able to make use of the high-tech drip irrigation concepts to conserve water during summer season. His interactions with the farming department officials have given him an idea of what crops to cultivate, in what quantities and when.

In short Parameshwaran through his life is giving a great example of how agriculture can be pursued to give back meaning to our life and existence on this planet. How we can live with low carbon footprints and give back to nature even maybe in very small measure, but a definite quantity, be it either in reduced carbon footprints, or giving a chance to the bees, the butterflies and the birds to live on this planet for a few years more.

In our excessive quest for showing off our materialistic gains and wealth, we ignore mother nature and the gifts she has bestowed on us. Let us try to give back to mother nature in whatever small way it is possible for us.

Hats off to Parameshwaran for taking the bold, courageous and generous step of being one with nature and giving back to nature. He has already completed a TV show for a US TV channel, to be aired soon and is a favourite spot for field visits for the future responsible citizens of our country, kids from schools near and far. The motivation he has created among his old classmates is also high, that some of them are planning to intern with him, including myself, and learn the simple joys of agriculture and giving back to society in more deeper and meaningful ways.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Kochi Metro, another living example of Sridharan magic ....

We have heard of E Sridharan IES, doing wonders starting with the Pamban bridge, Calcutta Metro, Konkan Railway and the world class Delhi Metro.
Metro stalwarts in the country ..

After retiring from Govt of India at the very respectable age of 79, Sridharan was approached by the Chief Minister of Kerala Oommen Chandy to lead the Kochi Metro. Sreedharan has been associated with the Kochi Metro authorities and Govt of Kerala representatives besides the political representatives for the past four years. Sridharan and Elias George MD of Kochi Metro have done wonders to get the cheapest, most modern and fastest Metro execution in India.

Of the initially planned 25.65 km stretch from Aluva in the North of Kochi city to Petta in the South as part of the first phase, 10 kms stretching from Aluva to Palarivattom will start running in the next three weeks. The trial runs have been successfully completed. Anytime the commercial running for the public can start after the Prime Minister Narendra Modi finds time to come to Kochi for the inauguration in the next two weeks. Meanwhile all other work of sprucing up the stations etc is going on in full swing.

Technical Features :  
Construction Methodology: Elevated viaduct carried over pre-stressed concrete ‘U/I’ shaped girders with pile / open foundations
Rolling Stock: 2.9 m wide modern rolling stock with stainless steel body, standard gauge axle load of 15 tonnes
Voltage: 750 V DC
Power Supply Source: 110Kv AC
Power Collection: Third Rail Bottom Collection
System: Light Metro System
Type of Signalling: Communication Based Train Control (CBTC) with ATO & ATP
Telecommunication: Integrated system with Fibre Optic cables, SCADA, Train radio, PA system etc                        (data from Railway technology.com
The estimated completion cost of the Metro First Phase (also called Komet or K-3C) from Aluva to Pettah covering 22 stations would cost about INR 5200 crores (app $900 million). Work is also started to extend the northern station from Aluva to the Kochi International airport in Nedumbassery to effect a convenient metro link from the airport right upto Pettah.

Route map of Kochi metro
Alstom of France with its factory at Sri City Andhra Pradesh has been given the $107 million contract to supply most modern 3 bogie, 65 m long and 2.9 metre wide, 25 metropolis train sets to Kochi metro.

The Delhi Metro now runs for 213 kms covering 160 stations from the intial 7 kms stretch for which work started on 24 December 2002, serves almost 26.6 lakh passengers daily and has since inception carried almost 1.24 billion passengers.

The Kochi metro on completion of the first phase will run for 25.6 kms. In future, we can imagine the development this Mass Rapid Transit System can bring to Kochi and help in its expansion to global standards, even surpassing other Indian and global cities. Having the reputation for the cheapest and most advanced metro project stations in the country, we hope the Kochi Metro will climb greater heights and repute over the years.

Sridharan with former CM of Kerala Oommen Chandy at Aluva, 2015 pic.
Like the Kochi International airport 5 kms away from Aluva in Nedumbassery, is the first and only insolated (fully solar energy powered) international airport in the world, we hope the Kochi Metro will carve a name for itself in terms of technical specifications, energy efficiency and effectiveness, comfort to people and customer friendliness in the country and the world in the coming days.

There is a great lesson in this to learn for the Government of Karnataka executing  Bangalore Namma Metro.

The basic lessons from the Kochi Metro are the following :
1. Get the required funding and a very experienced consultant to oversee the Project 
2. Plan for the most modern technology and design for the metro, network with all stakeholders 
3. Get a Project Management team strong in engineering expertise and project management skills 
4. Effect a smooth and fast implementation on sound Project Management skills 
5. Keep all levels politicians away during the project execution stage, to avoid favouritism and allegations of corruption 
6. Be straightforward and frank in all dealings with all stake holders 
7. Always work with the bigger picture of planned city development, passenger safety, low costs and comfort in mind.
8. Have great communication  with all stakehoiders and between employees at all stages right from planing to final handing over and running. 

Presently Sridharan is also appointed to the United Nations Organisation, overlooking Mass Rapid Transit Systems in Asia, Africa and Latin America. He has been invited to serve in the United Nations High Level Advisory Group on Sustainable Transport for a period of three years from 2015. (HLAG-ST).  Sridharan accepted this 3 year assignment to serve the United Nations at the ripe age of 82 years. !!

The country now awaits the Central Govt to start procedures to confer its highest National Civilian Honour of "Bharat Ratna" on E Sridharan !!


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Indian boy designs world's smallest satellite ..

Looks like our youngsters are getting ready to rewrite rules of society and science .. They are focused, with a definite purpose and are getting to aim at the stars. The great solace is they are not looking for government to handhold them and train them in the sloppy government way of doing things slowly. They are raring to go and reach the stars. Here I am introducing a young, I mean 18 year old boy from Pallapatti town in Tamil Nadu, India.

Dr Kalam could not be any happier than this ..
18 year old Rifath Sharook from Pallapatti village in Tamil Nadu, India has designed the world's smallest satellite ever, a 64 cu. cm (4 cm side), weighing 64 gram, made of Carbon fibre material and 3D-printed for a sub-orbital life of just 12 minutes after being launched aboard  NASA rocket from Wallop's island on June 21, 2017.

Dr. Abdul Kalam could not have been given any greater tribute than this !! His efforts of simplifying and popularising science and technology in every nook and corner of the country irrespective of age, caste and religion could not have found a greater reward than through the Kalamsat - a tribute from an 18 year old boy from rural India ..

No Nobel Prize or other global recognition would have been more fitting for Dr Kalam, the rural India's scientific saviour, the person who brought the whole of India to the forefront in Science and Technology and inspired them to do world-beating feats than this greatest feat ....

We have never heard of a Kennedysat or Breshnevsat, but here comes a Kalamsat !!
It is definitely a great tribute from a village student to one of the greatest and humble Indian scientists ever, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. Rifath Sharook may not be a high scoring student in his school, but sent a very strong message to the world that education is just a tool for getting exposed to the basics, rest all is with our mind applying what we have learned !! Dr Kalam's dream is going to be realised very soon !! - Karthi, HCL, Bangalore, 
The perfect tribute to India's greatest scientist
On the one hand, the major countries of the world, with Russia and US leading including India, are trying to launch heavier and heavier satellites and we find a brilliant young boy from India shocking the world with his tiny satellites ...

Read the news item here .. I am sure ISRO and it's 16,000 + scientists and technologists would learn some hard and humbling lessons from this exercise. It is not just high marks and academic brilliance that can help an organisation, but it is the finesse and flair of mind to be able to use these ideas through scientific principles for benefit of mankind and ultimate use to society, that will make the biggest difference..

Let this humbling experience help us to firm up our resolve to use the country's scientific and technological expertise to make a BETTER SUSTAINABLE WORLD, not just a richer, healthier and stronger country (as other advanced countries brazenly, outrageously pursue and unrepentently propagate .. )
It was a NASA competition to send the lightest satellite in the world and this boy won it..  ISRO may now  think of going to villages schools to recruit brains .. real talent is in villages ! 😊🙏

Monday, May 15, 2017

Visit to Mango orchard in Begur Bangalore..

It was a great experience yesterday, 14 May2017, to visit a Mango orchard and buy 23 KGS of very pure organic mangoes (malgoa) which had been plucked and stocked there.. Also got the opportunity to buy 4 jackfruits of the honey variety (thein varikka), the most exotic and tastiest of all jackfruits in the world ..


Saturday, May 13, 2017

The fantastic story of the revival of Kuttamperoor river in Kerala, INDIA ..

Kuttanperoor river, before revival
On the left is the image of the Kuttanperoor river in Alleppey district of Kerala just two years ago. For the past two months 30,000 people of the locality around this river  have worked for the revival of the river and on the right bottom, you can witness what a change societal action has brought forth.

Kuttamperoor is a river flowing through the Budhanur village in Alleppey district of Kerala through Chennithala, Mavelikara, Alleppey district in Kerala, India.. This river had lot of wild growth and was un-navigable. The absense of water also led to the wells in the surrounding areas going dry as the reservoir collecting the water was dry.

Kuttanperoor river after revial, May 2017.
Click here for the video of the revival of the Kuttanperoor river ..

After about 10 years of death of the river miraculously the river has been brought back to life. The people of the area under the leadership of the local MLA G Sudhakaran, took up the initiative involving 700 people who worked for 30,000 labour days cleaned the weeds and wild vegetation around the river and got the 12 kilometre river back to navigable status and to healthy life.

The people taking part in the revival process ..
It is a great and noble effort from the people of Budhanur and it will be remembered in all of history. It could also be a model for the whole country to follow. (My hometown Chennithala in Kerala is also near to this river)

When rivers go dry in different parts of the country, this example shows how as a cooperative effort with the involvement of the people can bring the life line of human life, rivers to life.

The people of Budhanur deserve to be awarded with a great honourable prize and recognition at the national level which will motivate people in the Southern states of India to look after their rivers. It will also help the people around Ganga to think hard on how Ganga could be saved from permanent and irreversible death.

The political leadership from G Sudhakaran needs to be really complimented for the great environmental revival of a river as without political support this project would not have got initiated and would not have succeeded the way it has.

The success of the project brings so much of contentment in the heart of each Malayali and each Indian as this is the harbinger of the good news that all the rivers running though different states can also be likewise revived. This also helps to raise the quality of the life of the people around these rivers to the old pristine and green ways.

This one project brings so much of promise to the country that we can revive all our rivers and bring them back to life and along with these rivers communities and societies too..

Let us all be party to this great initiative in our country. (photo credits to Mathrunbhumi, Indian Express and The Hindu)


Friday, May 05, 2017

How these 13 year olds from Kurumbapetty, Trichy govt school innovated !!

Explaining and giving meat to the idea 
It was a matter of great pride for these four 13 year olds from Kurumbapetthy Govt school, Trichy when they innovated using old 20 litre plastic bottles into urinals to solve a problem they faced daily.

Click here for the thebetterindian newsitem ..

The urinals at their school were ill equipped and did not have effective urine collection mechanisms. The spilled urine resulted in diseases, fever, lost classes, classroom stench and so on. The innovative solution proposed by the students solved their school urinal stench problem. This is also an effective method by which low-cost solutions have been resorted by the affected parties to innovate and come up with superior, long lasting and durable solutions.
The design and brainstorming phase ..

This idea though simple is an example of group innovation, very effective and strong in terms of teaching the basics of how to innovate ..

1. helps to solve the urine stench problem in their school in a very cost effective manner
2. finds effective use of old and damaged 20 litre plastic water bottles which otherwise would have been a headache for safe disposal
3. helps the village and the state to find effective ways to re-use plastic 20 litre bottles,
The final implementation ..
4. prolongs the life cycle of plastic through re-use before final safe disposal

This is a great example of how even small problems for adults, (big problems for children) causing health issues and poor hygienic conditions inside the classroom could be solved very effectively by children.

A step-wise procedure to look at social / societal innovation could be this :
The jubilant and successful team members
1. an open mind to identify problems
2. willingness to solve societal problems
3. enthusiastic mind to come up with multiple alternatives to solve the problem
4. practical mind to choose the best alternative
5. implement the best solution by evaluating the potential outcome in terms of the end results
a. societal benefits
b. low cost alternatives and
6. evaluating the future potential in terms of maintenance costs and life of product 

If we set up a mechanism to unleash the creativity of young minds, the creative and low-cost solutions to common day problems could be great !!

How can an innovative mindset be inculcated among the people of the country to leverage both on creativity of young minds and experience and wisdom of elderly minds to arrive at effective and low-cost solutions to societal problems ?

george.. (pic courtesy www.thebetterindia.com)

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

North Korea, a few weeks more ..

An example of how insanity can
run through families ..
The world is looking forward to find out how many weeks more this country in North East Asia would exist on global maps .. With full support from China, the end may not happen that soon..

China needs and knows very well that a rogue North Korean (NK) will help to keep South Korea (SK) and Japan in check. Without NK, China would cease to be an Asia power. The day China stops patronizing NK, the country would cease to exist. So it is mutually beneficial for China and NK, that NK continues its annoying, abominable, unacceptable and detestable behaviour and suppression of democracy and people's liberties in NK.

Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un,  3 generations
Pic courtesy CNN
The plight of 25 million people in NK is very pitiable !! If a war erupts, how many of them would be alive, just because of an insane person, for no fault of the common people.

The North Korea example of dictatorship is a good case study of how delusional and unsound mind of autocratic leaders can lead to great suffering, hardship, misery and mental stress of the people.

China deciding to recall its citizens in NK gives some pointers of what's in store for the next two weeks or is it just China's ploy to make the world believe that it is very serious about controlling its rogue and perverse partner ..

A country with GDP of just $60 billion at PPP and 0.03 percent (.0003) of global GDP, is trying to bully, domineer and browbeat an economy 350x its size !

Is NK too eager to get wiped out and erased from global maps  ?

The NK atomic sites being situated closer to the  Chinese borders is a great threat for China too, as in case of an attack by US or NATO on North Korea, not only will NK be affected, all nearby regions, even crossing the border into China will also get affected .. China would be the last country interested to find its territory getting subjected to dangerous radiation ..


Sunday, April 30, 2017

Why family businesses need to be ever more vigilant ..

In a study of 25,000 publicly listed companies in US from 1950-2009, on an average, they did not last for more than 15 years.

About 30% of family businesses make it through the second generation, 10-15% through the third and 3-5% through the fourth ..

Family owned businesses thus are more promising in the long run over public companies.

The two big traps family businesses often confront are

1. All family members can be accommodated - insist that family members will have tp earn their place in the family business by their education and experience
2. The business cannot grow as fast as the families - if there are enough competent people the business can be scaled up into different areas to accommodate competent people

Reference link :
Link 1  -,  Avoid the traps that can destroy family business, George Stalk Jr, HBR, Jan 2012.

Link 2  - Signs you are losing control of your family business, Josh Baron et al, HBR, April, 2017

Link 3  Why  the 20 th century belongs to family businesses, Josh Baron, HBR, March 2016.

Managing change in family run businesses ..

As per data from reliable sources listed below, public professionally run companies in US have an average life of only 15 years (50% wind up in 15 years) while we find 30% of all family run businesses transitioning successfully into the second generation, 10-15% into the third generation, 3-5 % into the fourth generation, creating value for the customer and wealth for the country in the long run. Family run businesses are therefore a vital component of any country's economy as the example of Walmart, Toyota, Volkswagen, BMW and Berkshire Hathway and many others remind us.  (Refer : Baron, Josh, "Why 20th century will belong to family businesses, Harvard Business Review, March, 2016)

One of the best definitions of family business I have ever come across is this -
A family business is a commercial organization in which decision-making is influenced by multiple generations of a family—related by blood or marriage. They are closely identified with the firm through leadership or ownership - wikipedia
Here is Forbes link to the top 25 family businesses of the world, led by Walmart, Volkswagen and Berkshire Hathway ..

The biggest family business on planet earth, Walmart ..
As per a report from rediff.com, of the top 20 businesses in India, 15 are family run businesses and contribute 26 lakh crores to the Indian economy. The exceptions are HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, Infosys, L&T and Axis Bank.

Family run businesses have been there from time immemorial when men settled and lived in societies from 6000 BC. Though in the present days, government run and professionally run organisations are models to the rest of the world, family run businesses are here to stay ..

Great Indian business families have come and gone ..
This brief writeup is case study of a very successful family run business from the state of Kerala processing one of the oldest and and valuable items India has been famous for thousands of years and which has attracted travellers and traders from wide and far in search of this precious asset - spices. The Spice Route and Silk Route which connected India and China respectively to the rest of the world for the past four millennia and which made them prosperous and rich for thousands of years speak lots about the thriving spices and silk trade in the eastern hemisphere. This writeup is an attempt to link up with one of the oldest and prosperous trade which India has been known for thousands of years, spices.

Synthite Industries, a family run business from Kadayiruppu, Kolenchery, Kerala is the world leader in oleoresins and spice oils, controlling 30% of the global business in oleoresins.

Aju Jacob
Aju Jacob, Director, Synthite in (click here for the video of the ISB talk) where he speaks clearly speaks of the challenges of managing family run businesses. He is the son of CV Jacob, Chairman of Synthite, from Kolencherry. George Paul is the Vice Chairman of Synthite. Their family runs the INR 1800 crores Synthite Industries which controls 30% of global market in spice oils and oleoresins..

Aju, an executive alum of ISB, Hyderabad has hughlighted the challenges faced by family run businesses in this talk he gave at ISB recently. Aju's elder brother Viju, also from Rajagiri, is the Managing Director of Synthite. His articulation of problems, particularly from the viewpoint of a prosperous, educated, spiritual and emotionally well balanced family background has been perfect !! Sparks of humility, understanding and great leadership was visible in that speech.
Dr, Viju Jacob, Mg.Dir., Synthite.

From being an organisation working well for the past 47 years, there is great learning for the third generation in his family and for elders and youngsters of other business families planning transition of leadership and authority to the next generation..  The added lesson from this case study is how to work with the active and often militant  trade union leaders of Kerala. This case in plain high impact words provide simple thoughts very neatly put across to understand the pressures of managing family businesses, both during good and bad times. 

This earlier writeup of mine some time back throws light on Synthite Industries, what they do and how. This Kerala based co. controlling 30% of global market in spice oils and oleoresins supplies to global food processing industry majors across the world !!

References :

1. Baron, Josh, Why 20th century will belong to family run businesses, Harvard Business Review, March 2016.
2. Forbes, Top 25 largest family owned companies in the world, 2017.

George ..

PS : Aju is my classmate from Rajagiri HS Ernakulam during late 70s and a family friend too.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Will the bloodshed in the Indian e-commerce market end anytime soon ?

E-commerce (electronic commerce or EC) is the buying and selling of goods and services, or the transmitting of funds or data, over an electronic network, primarily the internet. These business transactions occur either as business-to-business, business-to-consumer, consumer-to-consumer or consumer-to-business. - techtarget.com, 2016.
Even though trading over the Internet is almost thirty years old, its popularity over the past ten years has been great and has seen many players enter this ludicrous market and disappear overnight. It has not been a bed of roses all the way.

Losses of E-commerce cos, INR crores  
                    2014-15             2015-16
Flipkart             2979                  5223
Amazon           1724                   3571
Snapdeal         1328                   2960

   Total             6031                  11,754, (Source Economic Times, January 20, 2017)

Why are Indian e-commerce cos bleeding heavily ? While all are upbeat about our great e-commerce companies, it is but a fact that all of them are bleeding heavily. While all the top three in 2014-15 made losses of approximately INR 6300 crores, 2015-16 saw them making still greater losses. In total about INR 11,600 crores among themselves.

Click here for my presentation in the class analysing the reasons behind it..

Major and minor Indian e-commerce players, at least 14 and many more ..
Even though we are upbeat about e-commerce companies in general, the real picture is very grim. How long can the top three e-commerce companies in India show a bold face and live with these losses. Amazon India may be able to survive for another three or four years of heavy losses, because of its rich US cousin, focusing on just consolidation in the Indian markets. 

It was a good discussion in the class today. One of the suggestion was to  stop the pretensions and get to play the game on the right basics without any pretensions. Customer acquisition and customer retention are two very tricky aspects in e-commerce where we find price-sensitive Indian streetsmart customers switching between e-commerce players at the drop of a hat.

The more competitive the ecosystem, the more casualties we can expect. Since it is accepted that Indian e-commerce market is the most populated with maximum number of entities vying for a piece of the pie, it will only do good for the industry in the long run. Just like the telecom market in the country presently being the most competitive in the world where the global majors like China mobile or Vodafone dare not enter and commit harakiri, the e-commerce market can also be expected to be the most competitive.

Since Alibaba, the $480 billion retailer from China and Amazon, $250 billion retailer giant from US are here to stay, e-commerce as a field is to stay, but needs a real cleanup and it will happen pretty soon. The companies cannot afford to bleed for long ! The Indian scene is pretty bad and at the same time we believe it holds the maximum promise in the long run.

Alibaba and Amazon, please stand by ! The bloodshed in the Indian market is on and shortly one can expect peace to return .. If  one succeeds in the Indian market, he/she can succeed anywhere in the world.


Friday, April 21, 2017

Budget Airlines - how they achieve cost advantage over other airlines ..

Last time I caught an early morning 5.30 am flight from Bangalore to Mumbai, I had to leave home by 3.30 AM to reach Devanahalli airport at 4.30 AM. Why so early in the morning ? Since Bangalore does not have a secondary airport, I had to board flights departing the airport at odd times to avail of low airline fares. It was okay considering that I was paying just a third of what I would have paid had I boarded an 8.00 AM flight to Mumbai.

What is this big noise about Budget Airlines and how are they able to offer low fares to the public ?

Airlines operation is an interesting and exciting area of study for an Operations Manager. The airlines recover the initial high capital by carrying out very smart focused manoeuvres. South West Airlines in US was the first airlines in the world to start the concept of Budget Airlines. They started the field of demand management or Yield Management as an area of study where the ticket prices on a route depend on the customer demand for flights in that route. The main objective of yield management is to boost demand by offering tickets at different rates (in different slabs) depending on the demand distribution to optimise the final returns or yields.

Airlines have also looked at other minor yet important and interesting cost cutting aspects. As Sarah Coles (3) says, it is about concentrating in 4 main areas of operations,
  • first using the same type of aircraft
  • secondly, a constant drive to push costs down
  • thirdly, ensuring a faster turnaround time at the airports and 
  • fourthly not selling anything other than seats ..
We shall present them in detail here (1,2) ..

Identifying the cost pain points and addressing them to reduce the costs is the first step. US and India based budget airlines offer tickets that are 20-30% less than traditional airlines, while Budget airlines in Europe offer tickets at 50% of traditional airlines. an 800 km journey could be completed by air in under 10 euro. It is interesting to find how European budget airlines succeed where US and Indian airlines have only partly succeeded.

This video is a great example of how budget airlines constantly innovate to keep their operating costs low. Click for the video ..

There are different aspects we need to look at and they are listed here.

Physical Infrastructure - The planes are mostly of one type. RyanAir has only Boeing 737 and EasyJet only Airbus A320 aircrafts. GoAir and Indigo in India work mostly with Airbus A320 in their fleet. This helps the airlines to reduce their maintenance expenses, keep low inventory stock of spare parts and less training for the staff.
Additionally, the fleet is relatively new, with an average age of less than 5 years. They are more efficient incurring less running expenses, partly offsetting their higher purchase costs. These young planes incur less maintenance costs and are up in the air almost 24x7, giving better returns to the airlines. Most of these planes do not have expensive and luxurious reclining seats reducing costs and maintenance expenses. No back pockets for these seats reduce the cleaning needed reducing the turnaround time after each flight.The gap between the seats is limited, enabling accomodation of more seats in the economy class. (click here for pictures of future seating configurations in budget airlines..)

Airports proximity to city centre and landing fees - Landing fees at airports are a major source of expense for airlines as they have to part with higher airport landing fees when they land at major city airports. To keep the costs low, budget airlines land in slightly distant secondary airports which charge low landing fees, away from the cities with good connectivity to the city centre. The budget airlines use major airports at odd times when landing fees are very low like early morning or late night flights.

Training for Employees - training is imparted to the employees on multiple tasks like ticket checking, cleaning, luggage checking etc. . Fewer employees carrying out multiple tasks eliminates need for excess staff, reducing costs. The duration of training is less with more emphasis on safety than on hospitality. Being a very young workforce, there is no unionisation resulting in employees ready to shift to distant airports at short notice.

Catering facility - the budget airlines do not offer any complementary food or drinks during the flight and these are chargeable. The main advantage of this is that it saves inflight time for attendants who can attend to more important tasks of the passengers. Wastage of food is avoided on the flight.

Passenger loading schedules - The turnaround time at the airports are generally less than 45 minutes as earlier routine tasks like loading food trays, cleaning of planes between stops etc are avoided. As passengers are given seating on First Come First Served basis, passengers generally tend to come early to get window seats, eliminating delay in flights. The self check-ins through automated machines or internet check-ins have accelerated the check-ins.

Flying route schedules - Most of the budget airlines take only direct booking, eliminating middle men and commissions.
In addition most of the conventional established airlines operate on a hub-spoke arrangement, where they tend to touch at their hub or base very often, increasing the flying times and expenses for the airlines. Budget airlines on the other hand, have a point-to-point model of operations wherein they do not return to their main hub on every leg of the flight and instead touch base at different cities as per schedule and demand before reaching base. They also do not book connection flights as this leads to unnecessary extra expenses to the airline if the flight is delayed or connecting flights are missed.

Profit margins - Budget airlines have been observed to have healthy profit margins often running to an average of about 14-15 % while traditional airlines have low profit margins of about 4 - 5 %, besides being burdened with aging planes and heavy maintenance expenses.

What is the future of budget airlines ?

As economies keep growing, there will be increased demand for airline traveling. Hence the demand for budget airlines is only going to increase in the coming days, along  with a healthy demand for conventional long distance airlines. Short haul flights can experience a pull towards lower costs. An innovative technology like Hyperloop can bring great disruption if proved to be successful. 

The Govt of India's UDAN, the Low Cost Regional Connectivity scheme to get the distant parts of the country reachable by air is taking off today 28 April from Delhi to Shimla. Under this scheme, initially 43 cities to increase to 72 cities with 128 routes across the country. These cities will be connected whereby the flying fare for a 500 km distance and a one hour flying time will be capped at Rs 2500.00. Viability Gap Funding (VGF) upto Rs 3000 per seat will be provided by the GoI to the airlines selected under this scheme. The airlines are Alliance Air, SpiceJet, Turbo Megha, Air Odisha and Air Deccan. They were awarded 128 routes under the scheme after a bidding process. With this scheme, more cities in India will be reachable by air promoting the industrial growth of these cities.

The UDAN Low cost flying model of GoI, though not driven by actual demand and cost cutting innovative measures will help spur demand and help India go ahead. 

References :

1. Nils Pratley, Anatomy of a flight, www.Guardian.com, 2003. Accessed April 2017
2. Wendover Productions, How budget Airlines work, www.youtube.com, 2016, Last accessed April 2017.
3. Sarah Coles, Low cost Airlines - How they cut costs, www.aol.co.uk, 2015, Last accessed  April 2017.
4. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/all-you-need-to-know-about-the-udan-scheme-for-low-cost-regional-connectivity/article18251599.ece

Compiled and written by George Easaw for classwork in Alliance University, Bangalore, India. Unauthorised use prohibited. Contact geasaw@gmail.com for permission.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

UN Sustainable Development Goals 2015 .. What, why and how ?

Climate change is the greatest threat faced by humanity due to environmental pollution.  Sustainability efforts have thus gained importance world over, with leadership actions initiated by United Nations. 
Sustainable development means "meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" (Brundtland Commission).Apr 21, 2015
UN' 17 Sustainable Development Goals, 2015 - 2030.
The historic Paris Agreement of 22 April 2016,  provides an opportunity for countries to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. It entered into force on 4 November 2016.

The UN continues to encourage all stakeholders to take action toward reducing the impacts of climate change.

Click here for the UN website of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals adopted by 187 countries in 2015 to help transform our world, to be achieved by 2030 AD. 

The Lazy person's guide to saving the world (click here) is an interesting UN document which explains how each individual on this planet can contribute to making the earth sustainable in the long run in our small small ways.

Organisations big or small or even individuals need to analyse each of these 17 goals and 
  • segregate goals which they can influence and which they cannot, 
  • identify and prioritize goals which they can influence, 
  • organisations and individuals can then work out smaller macro and micro goals and
  • set measurable targets to achieve them 
  • in a fixed time frame.
The UN stated goals have been arrived at through consensus by all the 189 countries to be achieved over 15 years from 1 st January 2016. It is not legally binding on the countries of the world, but in the interests of the future generations, we need to take these goals in full earnestness and seriousness and ensure its accomplishment.

Kochi International Airport at Kochi, Kerala, India's third largest in infrastructure (1.5 m sq.ft T3) and fourth largest in terms of passenger traffic at 9 million annually, has built the world's first and only solar energy powered International airport. It remains unchallenged as the first and only fully solar energy powered international airport of the world even after 20 months of its initial insolation in July 2015. With faster economic development happening around the world, more people move around for work and leisure purposes. Air travel will become more popular and common, even though cheaper Mass Rapid Transport Systems alternatives like Hyperloop, do offer great promise. Airports going truly green can help make future air travel more sustainable, though air travel per se still depends on non-renewable resources..

2.5 acres of solar panels at Kochi International Airport, India.
We find very less awareness of these  in the press and media on the time limit and the goals to be achieved by then ? Let us take it upon each one of us, reading this document and the links given above to act in whatever small way possible to achieving the grand goal for the sake of humanity on planet earth...

It is our world, it is our joint responsibility to protect his world not only for our generation, but for all future generations..

George.. (photo courtesy Kochi airport, taken by Daily Mail, UK.)

Ref :

1. Bhaskar Chakavarthi, How companies can champion sustainable development, Harvard Business Review, March 2017. 
2. www,un.org/sustainabledevelopment, Sustainable Development Goals - 17 Goals to transform our world,  Last accessed , 17 April 2017.
3. george-easaw,blogspot.in, Truly green airport at Kochi, Last accessed 17 April, 2017,

India's top 10 market cap companies ..

Market capitalization is a measure of the customer confidence in the companies measured as the value what customers perceive it to have for their stocks in the market.

Total market capitalization of the top 10 Indian corporates as of April 2017 stands at 25,68,310 crores (app US$ 395 billion).

The Market leaders ..
(Market cap in INR, crores) (exchange rate calculated at 1 US $ = INR 65)

#1 Reliance Industries Ltd, 4,57,000 ($70.3 billion)
#2 Tata Consultancy Services, 4,56,000, (70.1 billion)
#3 HDFC Bank, 3,70,480 ($57 billion)
#4 Indian Tobacco Company, 3,38,851 ($52.1 billion)
#5 State Bank of India, 2,35,308 ($36.2 billion)
#6 HDFC 2,35,123 ($36.2 billion)
#7 Oil and Natural Gas Commission, 2,32,346 ($35.7 billion)
#8 Infosys, 2,11,870 ($32.6 billion)
#9 Hindustan Unilever, 1,97,464 ($30.4 billion)
#10 Maruti Udyog Ltd, 1,85,236 ($28.5 billion)

Of the top 10 market cap companies, 2 are from IT, 2 are from energy and telecom area, 3 are from Finance area, 2 are from retail and 1 from automobile manufacturing area. Finance sector is in the top with 3 out of 10 companies in financial services area. 2 of the top 10 companies are in the IT area reinforcing India's dominance and dependence on IT related services as economy drivers.

36% of market cap of the top 10 companies are generated by the top two companies RIL and TCS, the two flagship companies from the private sector in the country, representing energy, telecom and IT sectors.

Services vs Manufacturing -
9 of the top 10 companies are from the service sector and only 1 from manufacturing. It shows the dominance of service sector over manufacturing in the Indian economy.

Public sector vs private sector - 
Only three of the top 10 are public sector enterprises, rest are from the private sector, it shows that India's privatisation push post 1991 has worked quite successfully.

Contribution of different sectors -
Finance related companies , 840,911 crores account for 32.7% of the market capitalisation the top 10 players. Energy and telecom companies account for 26.4 %, IT related companies account for 26%, retail companies account for 20.9 % and manufacturing accounts for 7.2% of the market cap of total top 10 market cap companies.

TCS was India's leading corporate but for the presence of Jio Telecom which has helped Reliance Industries to get a boost of INR 100,000 crore to their market cap over the past six months.

The import this has for the future development of the country is that IT, energy, Finance and Retail will be dominating the Indian economy in the future. 


Source -  Live Mint, 19 April 2017

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Aadhar card, can it be a panacea for Indian low levels of development ?

When about two months back I wanted to take my second Jio mobile SIM card, I collected it from a roadside Jio booth selling SIM cards in Bangalore near Christ College on Hosur Road. The employee asked for my aadhar card number which he fed to the Aadhar database and checked my finger print scan with the records in the Aadhar database to confirm my identity. Within 2 minutes my new Jio SIM card was in my hand. This was the first application I experienced wherein my personal details recorded in the Aadhar database has been verified by a commercial operator to establish my identity. It was a big culture shock to me. My existence as an Indian citizen has for the first time been validated and cross checked with the Govt of India database to help me avail of a commercial facility.

The Govt of India's Unique Identification programme Aadhaar (www.uidai.gov.in) is a 12 digit unique-identity number issued to all Indian residents based on their biometric and demographic data. The programme was implemented by Dr Manmohan Singh under the able guidance of Nandan Nilekani, one of the founders of the IT firm Infosys from Bangalore, an alumnus from my alma mater Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. Though the present PM Modi took scrapping up this project as one of his top election promises, initially out of ignorance of the benefits of such a massive programme, later he accepted the utility and benefits of this programme in eliminating corruption in public systems and has adopted the Aadhar system with great dedication and sincerity now.

Cost of implementing the brilliant unique identification programme, Aadhar card,  of the Govt of India, started by Dr. Manmohan Singh and Nandan Nilekani and presently being pursued with all sincerity of purpose and devotion by PM Modi has been $ 1 billion, app INR 6500 crores.

Nandan Nilekani
Already the GoI has by weeding out false claims been able to save $8.5 billion in subsidies in two and a half years, about one fifth of annual central govt subsidies ..

Once the fingerprints of all the ten fingers and the iris scans of both eyes have been taken, there is no way someone can impersonate a person to run away with his subsidies and rations. (though roughly about 30% of all aadhar authentications are turned negative.)

The Aadhar database is being tapped on an average about 20 million times a day presently and 30 % of authentications are turned negative. About 1200 million people have already availed of Aadhar card across the country as per data released by The Economist of London, covering 99% of the adult population in the country.

The Income Tax department (woefully only 2.5% of Indians pay Income Tax in the country today) has made it mandatory that all IT returns from this year onwards be compulsorily linked with the Aadhar card number of the IT assesee. It is a welcome move as the GoI can keep a track of all citizens and possibly reward them in future for their honesty shown to the nation. It will also identify the dishonest citizens and punish them as the law permits.

With each passing day we find more and more services being linked with the Aadhar card identity of citizens making sure that services reach the actual beneficiary and no impersonation or corruption occurs in the delivery of central govt welfare subsidies and services. No other country has been as successful as India in rolling out this massive database benefiting the 1.25 billion population of the country.

In this recent talk with Quartz, (click here for the link) Nandan tries to defend the security concerns raised against Aadhaar by the tech community and the public at large ..

George (the author wishes to thank The Economist of London, issue of April 12, 2017, and wikipedia for the Aadhar related information provided in this article)

Data Analytics Primer ..

Information is processed data.

How can you process this data if it is very large running to terabits and is being generated on a continuous basis ?  One can easily get lost in the vast ocean of data. It is here the fields of big data and data analytics have joined hands to arrive at a tractable solution.
Big data analytics is the process of examining large and varied data sets -- i.e., big data -- to uncover hidden patterns, unknown correlations, market trends, customer preferences and other useful information that can help organizations make more-informed business decisions. credit - whatis.com
Big Data refers to the extremely large data sets that may be analysed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behaviour and interactions. (source : wikipedia)

Big data is a term for data sets that are so large or complex that traditional data processing application software is inadequate to deal with them. Challenges include capture, storage, analysis, data curation, search, sharing, transfer, visualization, querying, updating and information privacy. (wikipedia.com)

Big Data comes from many sources it could be internal or external from customers, suppliers, transporters etc.., from the Internet, social media, sensors, IoT devices etc..

The 4 Vs of Big Data is

1. Volume (size of data running to Terabits) ,
2. Velocity (generated on a daily basis non-stop from units across the world),
3. Variety (from a large variety of sources like social media, retail stores, transportation, healthcare and so on) and
4. Veracity (how accurate is the source of data, is it corrupted, what is the quality of the data etc,,).

Big data could be in structured form like from a provision or retail store or unstructured form as from social media or facebook. Structured data can be handled by means of Database Management Systems or more efficiently with Relational Database Management Systems (RDBMS like MySQL, PostgreSQL, Oracle etc..) can handle strauctured data. But how can unstructured data that comes from twitter or Facebook or Google search be handled ?

The different models of Data Analytics is

A. Descriptive Data Analytics tells us what has happened in the past

B. Predictive Data Analytics they use past data to model future outcomes

C. Prescriptive Data Analytics uses optimisation or other mathematical models to help take better, effective, optimised decisions.

Big Data and Effective Analytics is a great competitive advantage for firms across the world. One model which helps one to achieve this competitive advantage is the DELTA model.

The DELTA model of Data Analytics is a simple yet effective model used across applications


Enterprise wide focus for data ensures data has to reach and should be accessible across all corners of the enterprise

Leaders across all functions that promote a analytics driven culture in the organisation

Targets, financial and non-financial that can help key business areas or departments meet their targets

Analysts help to analyse the data effectively and come out with right information to help take quality decisions.

Bid Data and Data Analytics is a great tool for the organisation to take the right decision and overtake competitors in he highly competitive world.

Click here to Understand Data mining - the three steps to analysing unstructured data ..

An excellent video from HBR click here ..

Monday, April 17, 2017

Take off - an action packed malayalam movie with an international theme ..

Happened to watch the malayalam movie "Take Off" a couple of days back in Bangalore. Have to say that there has never been such an active Malayalam movie for a long time. The most attractive part of the movie is the fact that a real incident which happened about two years back and which required the intervention of the CM of Kerala Oommen Chandy and the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi including the Indian ambassador, is the theme behind the movie. The picturisation of the theme has been carried out well by the Director.

Good picturisation of an international theme ..
The movie depicts the pains of a bunch of malayali nurses in strife torn Iraq and their escape from the hands of terrorist outfit, the Islamic State. In my memory, it is the first time in Malayalam film industry that an international theme has been used to make a picture. It was also a good depiction of the pain and every day challenges faced by Indian migrant labourers in Persia and Arabia.

Under the direction of Mahesh Narayanan, as the story goes, actress Parvathy as Sameera, the only Muslim woman in a pack of 19 nurses stranded in a hospital in Tikrit, Iraq tries to find her second husband played by Kunchacko Boban along with the help by the Indian govt ambassador and his team in Iraq. Fahad Fazil has played the role of the assistant well. With the help of an Indian businessman in Gulf, the Saudi Arabian monarch influences IS to release Sameera's husband.

It gives us a real idea of how Islamic State is a challenge to civilization not only in Arabia but the whole world. It demonstrates to us how in the interests of humanity, IS needs to be contained as early as possible. It was because we never had any such film that youngsters, especially from Kerala have been attracted to the violent philosophy of IS and its leader Baghdadi. This movie will prevent more such misguided youth from being captivated by the violent tactics of IS. The film has a very pleasant ending with the crossing of the Iraqi border into Turkey, as the nurses team escapes from the hands of execution by IS by a whisker on to freedom.

After seeing the movie I was reminded of the movie "Escape to victory" (click here for youtube movie) from the early 80s, where football legend Pele plays in the 1981 film as the captain, along with Sylvester Stallone, of the Allied prisoners in a German prison during second world war and beats the German all star Nazi team and escapes from the prison camp to victory. Hitler was very miffed at the victory of the prisoners team against the world champion Nazi football team.
Pele in "Escape to victory"

Hope this film prevents more misguided youth from joining IS ranks from India and other parts of the world. Islamic State is the curse of the modern day Arabia and Persia

The dubious role being played by Saudi Arabia and Qatar in funding Islamic State with enough of materials and cash supporting their violent means of establishing a Caliphate once again in the Gulf is very shocking for the common man. The same Saudi Arabia and Qatar, playing double standards, go around talking about their intentions to establish peace in the region, while hundreds are being killed daily. The role of US in precipitating this crisis in the first place in Syria and Iraq, is by itself a deep lesson for the world on how influential and powerful countries like US can sway world opinion to their favour, resulting in violence in other parts of the world.

This film also brings to the fore how the nations of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and United States are acting against the interests of humanity across the world for their personal and selfish interests and growth. Such nations need to be isolated from the comity of nations and expelled from all international fora. It may not prick some conscience to milk these countries for the riches, money and wealth they offer, but it is against the interests of humanity to stand with them in such heinous acts as creating and supporting terrorist groups.


How US-China-North Korea war will benefit India .. How ?

USS Carl Vinson, Nimitz class, moving to Korean peninsula
US and China with the Chinese ally North Korea in a face to face combat is a great news for India. Why ?

The world waited for eight long years after George Bush's exit to see a boisterous US flex its muscles. Former President Obama was too smart to be pushed into a war and attended to the growth of US economy than its decline. Its great now to see under the impetuous Republicans, US pumping its fists to the air, all for misplaced reasons.

Republican Trump came into power not as much to bolster US defence as to give jobs to US citizens and to get US to grow once again. As is characteristic with almost all Republican Presidents without fail, Trump too did not fail the US public this time.

First it was the Mother of all bombs (MOAB - Massive Ordnance Air Blast) in the Afghanistan Pakistan border. The world looks forward to watch how US will give a shock to North Korea in the coming days. If that brings US and China face-to-face, it will be a bad day for global peace.


An IAF Officer's passion for agriculture ..

S. Parameshwaran was my  classmate at the College of Engineering, Trivandrum during Mechanical Engineering under-graduation days. He al...

My popular posts over the last month ..